Should all movie tickets cost the same? (Friday Question Fun)

Past Friday Question Fun entries

Happy Friday everybody! With the weather getting cold and awards season coming up, lots of great movies are hitting the theater and all vying for our attention and our wallets. While this may not be a problem for some of us movie addicts, it can take a toll after awhile. So this week, I’d like to know:

Should all movie tickets cost the same amount regardless of how much the film took to make?

Safety Not GuaranteedSkyfallTwo recent examples of totally different films are the Bond megahit, Skyfall and the mumblecore comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed.

Skyfall was made for an estimated $200 million while Safety Not Guaranteed was made for an estimated $750,000. While, of course, the two movies are vastly different and nearly incomparable, if you went to see both of them in the theater, it would likely cost exactly the same amount of money for a ticket.

I don’t think ticket prices should be based on budget, necessarily, but a more limited interest film like Safety Not Guaranteed should be cheaper because it has less money to recoup and a cheaper ticket cost may allow a wider audience to enjoy it.

Obviously, my view is simplified, I’m not taking many factors into consideration but…

What do you think?

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40 responses to “Should all movie tickets cost the same? (Friday Question Fun)

  1. Great question! At first I was expecting to see a query about why you pay more for IMAX or 3D films (which I have a slight problem with) but instead you opted for a budget type ticketing system. I think the easiest answer to that question is no. Only because (unless things have changed) distributors send out films in a group. Cinema’s then purchase this group or set of films. In order to recuperate their cost of purchase it would be too difficult to price each picture separately. Plus the distributors would have to change their system so that they would have to charge for film rentals separately. At least I think that’s how it would have to work.

    Oh and I don’t think you should have to pay more for 3D or IMAX, just to let you know! 😀

    • Yes, I believe you’re right. I was trying to simplify the question to a common thread (cost of production) but there are many unaccounted factors with that simplification.
      My reasoning is that I usually say “oh, I can wait for a movie like that to hit DVD” when it shouldn’t be that way. I think I should be able to see an indie movie for cheaper, and I think it would help the indie movie scene too.

      • A very valid point. There are a lot of films that I decide to wait for the DVD, oddly the amount of films that I wait for are about even between big studio high budget films and indie shoe string budget ones. But I agree, it would probably help the indie scene in the long run. 😀

  2. Good question. Personally, I think movie tickets have too high prices and should be cheaper (my local theater sells tickets for about $9 a piece). I do think cheaper tickets for limited release movies would help them get popularity but I don’t think any studio would be willing to do that.

  3. Interesting question Andy. I don’t think we should have to pay different prices depending on the cost of film; it would cause all manner of issues. If you gave studios the chance to control prices based on outlays, James Cameron films would cost a fortune to go and see. Similarly, films made on a very low budget would be unable to make the same kind of money and would be deemed a failure. Seeing as the success of a film invariably seems to be about how much money a film makes, the current system at least provides a more level playing field to determine how well a film is done.

    • Fair point, if the statistic for measuring a movie’s success was based on number of ticket sales (which it should be, in my opinion) that would eliminate that. We have budget video games, books, etc. I don’t quite see why movies tickets are uniform, that’s all.

      • I agree, that seems like a much fairer way of judging a film’s success as it would also cut out difference in differences in currency from country to country. Books, video games, etc, often only become budget after a certain amount of time and are released at a premium to start with to make money, but as films are only around for a limited time, that’s not really an option.

  4. I have thought about this as well, but I know exactly what would happen. The smaller movies getting made in Hollywood would dry up. Studios would see nothing but dollar signs on movies with big budgets because they cost more. I think if we based prices on budgets greed would be even worse in the current system. It would be a world full of movies like Battleship and all of them would be 3D with an average cost of at least twenty dollars. Anything on a smaller budget would have to be Independent because they wouldn’t get made.

    Good question. I honestly think they should just reduce prices all across the board since they are so over priced for what you usually get – texting, chattering, and things of that nature.

    • You hit on a good point. Part of the reason I bring this up is because I think movie prices are a bit high for things other than huge special effect blockbusters. Movies like that just can’t be experienced the same way at home, whereas a film like Safety Not Guaranteed doesn’t necessarily benefit from being seen in a theater…Yet I would still see it if the price was right.

  5. Hmm, like Mike I was thinking this would be about IMAX and 3D tickets. As for varying prices I don’t think it would be a good idea. I’m not sure the prices in the cinema would relate to what a cinema pays the distributor for a movie. FOr the sake of argument let’s forget about that, then I think they should cost the same because it would mean that because you pay the same price for each ticket it would allow for the studio to earn more on smaller movies which means they’d have more money to spend making new movies (relatively).

    Personally I pay a fixed amount each month for an unlimited amount of movies at the cinema, so it seems that fixed pricing is a scam anyway 😉

  6. That is a brilliant question and something that makes me thankful for my monthly Unlimited pass with Cineworld. I don’t have to think about how much each film costs as pay 14.99 a month and can see as many films as I want.

    • I’m actually not sure. They may have final say on an exact price since they know what will pay the overhead of running a theater but the distributor usually is the starting point for where pricing comes from, I believe.

  7. I think your idea (a more limited interest film like Safety Not Guaranteed should be cheaper because it has less money to recoup and a cheaper ticket cost may allow a wider audience to enjoy it) is great and a fantastic way of helping the “little films”. Also, I think 3D movies should cost more than regular movies, but only marginally.

  8. Of course! All movie tickets should cost the same. Here’s a chart(-ish):

    CONSUMER’S IDEA: Adult (12-64): $0.99 Senior (65+): $0.99 Child (11 and under): $0.99

    THEATER MANAGER’S IDEA: Adult (12-64): $19.99 Senior (65+): $19.99 Child (11 and under): $19.99

    Now 3-D upcharge is a different scenario: probably an extra 25 cents in the former mentality and an extra $5 in the latter. But in the near future, 3-D will be standard, so we’d be getting an infinitesimal discount for the rare 2-D feature.

    Great question!

  9. Same price. In fact, I typically pay more for a smaller art-house film even though its budget is significantly less than a multiplex Hollywood film.

    “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a small film with limited marketing; therefore, a lot less asses in the seats and eyeballs on the screen. Charging less to watch it takes money out of the theatre’s and producers pocket. If I watch “Safety” at my local multiplex I pay the same price for it as “Skyfall”. If I watch it at O-Cinema then I pay more–they have a larger overhead cost per screen to recoup. I’m willing to pay more to watch it at the O-Cinema because I like watching smaller well made films that are original and/or very well made, and I know the owners–also, they serve beer and have quite possibly the best cookies in the city.

  10. I thought you already write Submarine review 🙂

    as for the question…tickets for all movies are same in my country. Different ticket price apply on different cinema

  11. If they’re at the same theater, they should be the same price. I’d love if tickets cost less, because $10.99 a ticket is crazy. Good thing I don’t really get snacks at the theater, too! If there’s a movie that I want to see but I’m not completely apt to see it, I really don’t mind going to one of the cheaper theatres and paying $9 or $5 a ticket to see it.

      • roger ebert has an interview with ang lee (Life of Pi) on his website. seems they’ve been friends a long time and Lee has appeared at Ebertfest before. I wonder the chances of Lee and Life of Pi being at this year’s festival.

          • i thought it was a great book. there was a segment that seemed silly, when he drifted to an island (not sure if you got that far) for a short time. the things on the island seemed dumb. i won’t give away anything specific, but i’m looking forward to the movie but i’m a little worried. as books go, when i thought it was over, it already was a 9 1/2, then they throw in this extra surprise thing and it became a 10. but things don’t work the same way for movies. and that extra thing could cause people to like the movie but then dislike it when that element happens.

  12. I never really thought about that. I think films with a higher budget will generally be expecting more viewers. It’s a risk that they have to take; a higher budget = better (sometimes) movie = more viewers. I wouldn’t like to have to pay more for a movie with a higher budget. It just seems a little irrelevant. What I do like is paying less for movies that have been out for a while and half almost empty theatres! 😛

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